By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
FULTON – Itawamba Community College men’s basketball coach Marty Cooper knew the clock was ticking on his career when practice opened in October.
“The gas tank was getting a little low,” he said. “It’s not that I didn’t care. I just had low energy. Basketball’s a grind, but you shouldn’t feel that in October.”
Cooper, 53, announced Wednesday he was resigning after 14 years as head coach at ICC, effective at the end of the season. The Jackson, Ohio, native came to ICC from East Central Community College, where he coached six seasons.
The 27-year coaching veteran will remain at the college, working in the school’s graduation initiative program. His wife, Jennifer, who was his assistant coach, will continue as an instructor in the school’s natural science department.
The couple has an 11-year-old daughter, McKenzie.
“It’s a point in my life where I felt like I needed to put my family first,” said Cooper, during a press conference at the Davis Event Center. “It’s just time to move on and accept another challenge in my life.”
Cooper has a record of 250-134 at ICC that includes four MACJC North Division championships, one state championship and three Region 23 championships.
The Indians advanced to the NJCAA national tournament three years (2002, ’07 and ’08). He has a 21-year career record of 366-215 as a head coach in the state community college ranks. He also won a state title at East Central.
Carrie Ball-Williamson, ICC’s athletics director, said a search would begin immediately to find Cooper’s replacement.
“Hopefully we’ll get somebody in here before signing day (April 8),” she said.
‘A great coach’
Ball-Williamson praised Cooper for his direction of the program.
“Marty’s had a great 14-year run here,” she said. “He’s a great coach. He took this program to another level. He not only produced great players, but great young men.”
Cooper and his staff will continue to recruit until a new coach is named.
“It was the best thing for ICC that I announce this now,” he said. “The people we’re recruiting want to come here regardless of who the coach is.”